Sunday, 2 February 2014

New Painting Comes to Light - of Kingfishers

On the off-chance that others in England may also have a Margaret Flockton painting hanging on their walls, I'm posting the following unexpected message, just received from a stranger in England. Isn’t the internet wonderful?
'Good morning, Louise.

When my wife's parents died, she inherited a handsome watercolour by 'M L Flockton' of two kingfishers with a lake background, which has been adorning our lounge for many years. She believes it was bought in an antique shop in Farnborough, Hants, maybe before she was born (1937), as it was in the family home as long as she can remember.
By chance, while I was online with Google recently, I glanced up at the picture, entered the name & lo & behold! your name came up with many other sites detailing Margaret's accomplishments and images. Now, it seems strange that all these are botanical paintings in Australia and, unless it was copied from a photo, this one would probably have been painted in England.
As you're clearly immersed in the lady's life & work, I thought you may be interested to see the attached photos of the work (approx 22"x18") (apologies for the poor quality & reflections).'
Wonderful news. This is the first example which has come to light of anything Margaret painted in England. She arrived in Sydney just before Christmas in 1888, and never returned to England, suggesting that the kingfishers were painted during the 1880s.
The painting’s size and medium is consistent with Margaret’s other work. Farnborough also makes sense as a geographic area: various relatives of Margaret’s are known to have lived in that general region from the 1840s (at Weybridge) to 1922, when her maternal aunt Anna Maria Flockton (Annie) died at Brookwood Asylum, Woking.
The painting might well have belonged to Annie, who was unmarried and a long term resident of Brookwood. It's easy to imagine Margaret giving her poor aunt Annie a painting to help decorate the wall when Annie was moved into Brookwood (some time before 1891). Annie’s effects might have been sold when she died in 1922. Obviously, I must now investigate her more closely. And it seems that my new-found friends in England will help with the sleuthing:

'We stayed up till past midnight doing a bit of gentle delving into the Flockton family. An Interesting Lot.

The Asylum's been converted into swanky flats now and we drive through what used to be the site 2 or 3 times a week, but we wouldn't want to live there - too many ghosts. Just up the road at Woking is the Surrey History Centre. If you would like anything else looked up at the SHC, please ask.'
How could I resist such an offer. Until this message arrived, I hadn’t realised that Annie might have direct significance to Margaret’s story, so I’ve never obtained a copy of her death certificate (Anna Flockton, Jun Qtr 1922, Guildford, Vol 2a p 113) and don’t know where she was buried.  Her mother (Maria Isabella Flockton), aunt (Mary Webster Ashby) and uncle (Webster Flockton) are buried at St Mary, Staines.
Annie was apparently born (in 1838) with some kind of disability, as census records show that while her parents were raising her numerous siblings, Annie was often in the care of other members of the family (in her paternal grandfather’s household in 1841, in her paternal aunt’s household in 1851). She was back with her widowed mother and unmarried siblings in the 1861 census and she participated in family events, such as the 1859 marriage of her sister Isabel, Margaret’s mother. I haven’t found Annie in the 1871 or 1881 census but by 1891, when her mother was over 80 and most of her siblings had left England, Annie was in Brookwood, classified as a lunatic.
I suspect Annie suffered the consequences of the chemical pollution of her father’s turpentine business, as did other members of her family. There were many early deaths among the men running the business, and among Annie’s 13 siblings, many of whom were born in the factory residence.  That’s another reason (apart from knowing what personal effects were in her possession when she died) for my renewed interest in Annie’s life at Brookwood.
I had previously checked Brookwood’s records online, of course, but the process of trying to obtain (from Australia) any information about Annie seemed very cumbersome, with many administrative hurdles to overcome despite Annie having no descendants to 'offend'.

So, I say 'thank you, thank you' to my very kind new English friends with local knowledge and contacts. If you can help fill in some of Annie's life history to explain the provenance of the 'Kingfishers' painting, I'll be delighted. Luckily, 'A Fragrant Memory' is still able to incorporate relevant new information of this type.